Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Jewish Animism

An old boyfriend of mine once said to me, "I don't believe in G-d, but I believe that people have souls." That didn't make sense to me at the time. If you believe in souls, then G-d granted you those souls. But now I can see it as a difference in definition of G-d. You can believe there is no god separate from souls. If we have souls, then souls are part of a spiritual continuum that we call G-d.

I suppose I believe in souls. It gives me some sense of meaning to do so.
Too nihilist not to. Too much despair.

My father was a religious Jew and seemed to be always trying his best to be a good man for all of the time I knew him, and he died a horrible death. All the while believing in life and that it was worth suffering through any medical treatment if there was the smallest chance that it would save your life.

When I found it difficult to pay synagogue membership fees this year I had incentive to stop believing in Judaism. Without it I would no longer have that one debt, or perceived debt. A debt of honor, or debt to community. No U.S. legal enforcement, but it felt uncomfortable not to pay it. Unless I was no longer Jewish; then it wouldn't matter.

I didn't manage to fast through the entire Yom Kippur this year, nor to attend as much as the High Holiday services as I usually have.

I had been feeling more and more disassociated.

Still, a sort of litmus test of Judaism is for me to say, well then I don't have to be kosher. I can cook meat on the milk dishes and vice-versa; I can even have unkosher food in the house. But I have such a terrible aversion to thus sullying my dishes or my stomach with unkosher food. Kind of a not-being-a-virgin-anymore sense to it.

I do feel guilty and bad about the killing of any animal for food. I'm not vegetarian anymore, but I do find kashrut as a kind of penance for the sin of eating meat. I think it was even explained to me in Hebrew school as one of the theories for kashrut. Take away meat-eating, and keeping kosher is a thousand times simpler. You can eat meat after eating dairy products; but eating meat requires four to six hours penance before you may have an ice-cream cone afterwards.

And if I don't care about religion, then why don't I want my Catholic mother-in-law taking my children to church, and why can't we consider the local Catholic school as an alternative if the public schools seem lacking? There the aversion is to the betrayal of my ancestors and their relatives who suffered and died so that they could pass on Judaism to their descendents. My Catholic husband is from South America. Native South American lineage is written on his features, and on those of one of our daughters. Those ancient South Americans probably did not appreciate being murdered or assimilated by the Catholic Conquistadors. For their sake, too, my daughters can't become Catholic. For the sake of my ancestors, I must pass Judaism down to and through them, regardless of my ambivalence to all of its beliefs.

I know there are many who call themselves Jewish Buddhists, or "Jew-Buddh" for short. I don't know enough about Buddhism, nor am I shopping for it. I also suspect that I'm too high-strung to become a Buddhist. Of course some could say that's why it would be useful to learn, at least, to meditate.

I think the description for my set of beliefs--respect for the souls of the dishes, and of all people, and of my ancestors, and all the animals murdered for food--is called Animism. Jewish Animism seems to be the most accurate description of my religion.

"I'm a Jewish Animist," I tell my husband.

"There's no such thing," he says.

"But that's what I am," I say with helpless conviction.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. This was really interesting to me because just today I said to myself, "I am a Jewish Animist." Because of which I asked myself in response, "Is there a such thing?" And then determined to search it out and I found you.